Sunday, December 27, 2009


We as a people are extremely list oriented (grocery lists, shopping lists). We are consistently listing and ranking things (box office scores, sports teams). The genre fan in particular is enamored with the art of assigning classification (best horror pic of the decade, best film of the year). Thus, as the year draws to a close, I have begun to reflect on what the realm of cinema has had to offer in 2009. In an effort to organize a satisfactory “best horror of 2009" list I have endeavored to expose myself to as much genre fare as possible. Among the titles that had, until recently, eluded me was Deadgirl, a sordid little video nasty that has been included on a number of “best of” lists.

The movie, which witnesses a pair of high school boys defacing an abandoned hospital before discovering in its basement the naked body of a zombified woman, fails to satisfy the moral disquisition hinted at via its plot. As a high school teacher, I am witness to the immoral actions of teenagers on a daily basis. Most recently, members of the school’s soccer team sketched an 80 yard replica of the male organ of copulation in the snow outside the building. Still, it takes a special kind of someone to defile an open wound in the belly of a bound and battered woman while friends jest and jeer from the sidelines. It is extremely difficult to maintain lively interest in a film with such abhorrent characters. Even during a moment when the movie attempts to lend its protagonist an air of humanity by having him free the title character from her shackles, it first has him borrow said tool from a drug dealer.

I was reminded at points throughout Deadgirl of Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age tale Stand By Me: also a story about adolescents stumbling upon a dead body (and in support of my earlier claims regarding the idiosyncracies of genre fans, my fourth all-time favorite film). That movie captured the horrors of boyhood (a period when one is given to rebellion yet fearful of the consequences) while simultaneously illustrating the magic of childhood. Deadgirl could have done the same thing, however, ultimately is too concerned with making its audience feel uneasy. A framing of adolescent misfortune (alienation, peer pressure) is displaced by one-dimensional characters whose vocabulary is limited to four-letter words, a soundtrack littered with trite emo tunes and one too many hand-held images of hardened nipples.


  1. Hm, I never thought of Stand By Me as horror, but when you said that, I first thought about the leeches. So what defines horror, anyway? What about all those gross movies that have lots of gore but aren't scary at all?

  2. I don't really think of Stand By Me as horror. There were coming-of-age elements in Deadgirl that reminded me of its story. Defining what constitutes horror is difficult. Horror movies illicit fear or dread. You're right though - many fail (ie the works of Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and others who are creating the "horror porn" that you're referring to).